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The Highway To Addiction: How Drugs & Alcohol Hijack Your Brain

The Beginning of Addiction

Not all addictions begin in the same way.

The introduction of a drug or alcohol addiction is not the same for everyone, whether in childhood, teenage years or even well into adulthood. Whether or not a person becomes addicted can be related to multiple factors including genetic, social, and environmental factors.

Addiction is a chronic, life-threatening illness, and with any illness, it is not something that anyone chooses to have. Addiction is a brain disease, this means that addiction actually changes the structure of your brain. There is no immediate cure or prescription for addiction.

Since addiction “hijacks” the brain there are long-lasting effects on both the brain and body, and the road to recovery is often much more complicated.

The Fast Lane to Addiction

Long-term addiction can lead to physical and psychological consequences.

Drug and alcohol abuse chemically alters the way the brain works – drugs and alcohol actually “hijack” your brain.

In his research article published in Nature Communications, researcher Dr. David Berlin states:

“Certainly, chronic exposure to drugs alters the prefrontal cortex, which governs motivation, inhibitory control and choice. But it also alters an area of the brain called the basolateral amygdala, which is associated with the link between a stimulus and an emotion”

When someone is addicted to drugs or alcohol, the impulse to continue use substances is strong. The part of the brain that usually mitigates such choices is essentially bypassed. The body begins to develop a tolerance to the drug. Over time, the individual requires an escalating amount more of substance to sustain the desired feeling and reaction.

Understanding this helps us to see that recovering from an addiction is not about willpower or moral fortitude, and about the chemical composition of a hijacked brain.

A Detour to Relapse

It can be hard to understand why a loved one relapses, but you are not alone.

Dopamine plays a key role in addiction and relapse.

When using alcohol or drugs, the brain’s reward center receives stimulation by way of dopamine. Drugs and alcohol flood the brain with positive stimuli. The brain then connects this behavior with good feelings and pleasure. When a person retreats away from substance abuse, the pleasure center of the brain no longer receives this amount or intensity of dopamine.

When someone is recovering from drug and alcohol addiction they may feel sad, lonely or angry as their system adjusts to receiving fewer amounts of dopamine. At this point, their brain is still hijacked, and it is crucial for them to have a good support system in place.

Sustainability Through Psychological Recovery

There are many options if you or a loved one needs help beginning the path to recovery from a drug or alcohol addiction. In-patient and out-patient treatment centers provide a source of support and guidance for your loved one and family. You could also consider utilizing the help of a skilled and qualified therapist or certified drug and alcohol counselor. There are also many free support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Life Ring, SMART Recovery and more.

ARISE Drug and Alcohol Continuing Care with Intervention Support

An ARISE® Intervention is an effective way to help your loved one enter treatment and recover their hijacked brain. ARISE® gets over 83% of individuals into treatment within 3 weeks, 96% into treatment within 6 months and 61% in recovery by the end of the year. Call our no obligation, toll-free hotline at 877-229-5462 or contact us now >>